Nexus 7: Push comes to shove, I prefer my iPad

Google's 7" tablet has a lot to offer for the price. But at the end of the day, I'd much rather use a mature device with superior screen resolution and a greater choice of native tablet optimized applications.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

My ZDNet colleague, James Kendrick absolutely loves his new Nexus 7.

This is to be expected as James is our Mobile News columnist and is a self-professed mobile technology junkie.

James and I both talk about the industry a lot together, and while we agree on many things, we have very different ways of looking at mobile tech. I tend to look at things from a very 10,000-foot, more enterprise oriented and vertical market level and James looks at things from a consumerist, in the trenches level.

James gets to look at every single gadget in the industry because manufacturers rely on him for in-depth product feedback, whereas I am extremely selective about my technology because more often than not, I have to pay for it myself if I want to evaluate it.

When the Nexus 7 was announced, I absolutely jumped at the chance to buy one because I needed a good Jelly Bean test platform, and the price was right given the amount of technology that was shoved into the device.

Over the last two weeks I've been putting the device through its paces.

While I own other Android tablet devices, they are all sitting in boxes right now because my home is in a state of moving flux -- so all I have right now at my disposal is the Nexus 7 and my iPad, both of which have been getting my undivided attention.

To say that my technology infrastructure right now is minimalist and reduced to bare essentials is an understatement. I only have one of my PC workstations functioning right now and it's set up temporarily in my living room while my bedrooms and office are being tiled.

James cites that the Nexus 7 has become his e-reader of choice. I agree that the Kindle and Nook applications both run extremely well on the unit, and that as a general overall value, the Nexus 7 is a much better buy than both the Kindle Fire and the NOOKTablet combined. 

However, I much prefer my iPad 3 for reading books, simply because the display is far more easy on the eyes due to its much higher resolution and pixel density.

I will note that for daytime reading I much prefer my real E-Ink based Kindle, and that while the current Kindle Fire is outdated technologically when compared to the Nexus 7, it has the advantage of being able to access the Amazon Lending Library by virtue of being an actual Kindle.

So if you're a Amazon Prime customer and want to take advantage of that service, you might as well own a real Kindle anyway.

James also likes using the Plume application for monitoring his Twitter activity. I also use Plume as my Android Twitter app of choice, but I find that it doesn't work much better on the Nexus 7 than it does on my Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

In fact, there's no difference at all, because the native resolution of the Nexus 7 is almost identical to a high-end Android smartphone -- the Nexus 7 is 1280x800 whereas my Galaxy Nexus or even the latest and greatest Samsung Galaxy S3 is 1280x720. 

Because my eyes stink, I find that on both the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7, that I have to crank up the font size to "Huge" so that I can read the status updates on Plume. On the iPad 3, I'm perfectly happy with the font used on the official Twitter app because the screen is so incredibly sharp and there's so much more screen area for reviewing tweets.

Would I like to be able to make it bigger? Sure. But I can still read it extremely clearly without modification.

And typing tweets out on a Nexus 7 versus an iPad? There's just no comparison. The iPad beats a Nexus 7 or comparable Android smartphone and even an iPhone hands down when it comes to any data entry application.

James also likes the browsing capabilities of the Nexus 7 with Chrome for Android. I admit that Chrome adds a great deal more value to Android than without -- I've been using it on my XOOM since Ice Cream Sandwich ROMs for that tablet went into beta testing. Being able to sync up your bookmarks and search history between devices is just plain fantastic, and the page rendering is first class.

But Chrome now has a port for iOS, and it works extremely well. It isn't as "native" for iOS, since it is unable to use Safari's built-in rendering engine and has to use an older engine to display pages, but all the synchronization stuff works just fine. So its tough to say the Nexus 7 is superior to the iPad based on browser technology alone.

James also appreciates the performance improvements Project Butter brings to the table. I agree, this is the smoothest performing Android yet. But smoother than iOS? No way, Jose.

The difference between Android and iOS in terms of overall app performance is readily apparent when you use comparable multimedia apps.

Take Skype, for example -- I've done Nexus 7 to Nexus 7 and Nexus 7 to iPad Skype sessions with James and other ZDNet columnists and we both found that Google's new tablet is a complete fail in this department. The video quality is fuzzy and loses sync with the audio, and the audio itself sounds tinny and breaks up constantly.

In fact I would classify the Nexus 7 as just plain unusable as a Skype client.

The iPad? The audio is clear as if the person was sitting right next to you and the video was perfectly in sync and displayed at much higher fidelity. It's a first-class VOIP and video conferencing platform.

Granted, it could be that the iOS Skype client and the Audio/Video codec is simply better written than the Android one, but it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence using the Nexus 7 for video conferencing or VOIP.

What about games? You'd think that the Tegra 3 would be an extremely beefy processor and would be able to get the job done.

But when I play any number of Android games, particularly 3D ones that tax the GPU, it's not unccomon to find the tablet pause to cache elements into memory and to stutter. Presumably, these games are written to use the NDK, not Dalvik, so we're talking about direct to frame buffer, so the OS can't get in the way.

You almost never see this happen on an iPad 3 with the same exact games. And the iPad 3 has a lot more pixels to drive.

James also notes that when he wants to get "real work done" he reaches for his iPad, not his Nexus 7. On this, I agree.

When it comes to being actually productive the iPad has much better applications, the Apple iWork suite in particular being the prime example. There are also numerous 3rd other apps which the iPad has that makes it much better suited as a business tool than the Nexus 7, which is clearly a consumer-targeted device.

I'll also note that the leading 3rd-party productivity suite for Android, Quickoffice Pro, is much better implemented on iOS. Google recently bought Quickoffice, presumably to integrate into a future version of Android and so it can be better integrated into Google Drive and Google Docs. I don't expect them to discontinue the iOS version anytime soon.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the Nexus 7 is a great little tablet. I may find myself using it as my travel tablet of choice, since it's a lot less kit to carry with me and far less expensive a device to risk breaking on a trip, particularly if I want to watch movies on Netflix and do some casual after-hours browsing in my hotel room or in the airport lounge.

But as a replacement for my iPad 3 at home? Forget about it.

Would you give up your iPad for an Android tablet like the Nexus 7? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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